Exclusive: Dr. Lalit Bhasin, Managing Partner, Bhasin & Co On BCI’s Rules Allowing Foreign Firms In India

Dr. Lalit Bhasin, Managing Partner, Bhasin & Co recently talked about the BCI’s new rules allowing foreign firms and lawyers to set up their practice in India, conception of Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) and other aspects of liberalization of legal fraternity in India.

In India what has not changed in six decades is that we consider law to be a profession and not a business, said Dr. Lalit Bhasin, Managing Partner, Bhasin & Co on Thursday. He also mentioned that the new rules of Bar Council of India to allow foreign firms to set up shop here were brought in a hurried manner.

“They came out in a hurry with these regulations and are running a grave risk and then assuming that the Supreme Court judgment has been overlooked the fact remains that the regulations as framed also go contrary to the provisions of the advocates act.” said Dr. Bhasin in a conversation with BW LegalWorld.

Legal Profession In India:

Addressing the changes the legal profession has gone through, Bhasin cited that in India law is still a profession unlike the world where it has become a business. He mentioned that now the focus in India has however shifted from justice to rules and regulations which leads to even more disputes. He explained that instead of curing the lacunas of the litigation, the attention is being diverted towards arbitration but that too has become so delayed and expensive that people are now looking for alternatives to that as well.

“That emphasis has shifted from justice to law with more and more laws and regulations coming in. It leads to more and more disputes. So there is no end to the disputes. There is no solution. That is why litigation has failed in India. People were thinking of Alternate dispute resolution in the form of arbitration. Now people are looking for an alternative to arbitration,” said Bhasin.

He said that the emphasis must be placed on self regulation to prevent the mounting of disputes and that we should go back to out ancient times and bring back the consensual for of administration of justice.

Discussion on Society Of Indian Law Firms (SILF):

Talking about the Society of Indian Law Firms, he explained that in the late 90s there were several good emerging law firms and the idea of liberalization of the legal fraternity started emerging. He mentioned that is when the managing partners of law firms had a meeting where he was also present to set up a society comprising the law firms only.

“In 1999 some of the managing partners of the law firms and I had a meeting and the idea of setting up such a society was rooted for no  individual members, only law firms to safeguard the interest of the law firms. Now, that was a unique move. Because in the world, there is no organization which has only law firms as members,” Bhasin remarked.

Highlights of SILF meeting conducted on March 20:

On the key points discussed in the meeting conducted by SILF, Bhasin said that the members felt that the rules allowing the foreign firms’ entry in India should not be one-sided as the system needs to be internally liberalized first.

“You may allow the foreign lawyers to come but at the same time, you have to internally liberalize the Indian profession.You see,we cannot have our proper websites. They call it advertising. They call it publicity. We don't want what is happening in U.S.where you advertise on electronic media. No, we don't want that but we want at least dissemination of information about credentials and our expertise, our areas of practice, where all we have our offices in India,” he said.

Bhasin further highlighted that the current rules framed by the BCI are also not consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Balaji’s case and the provisions of the Advocates Act.

Impact On Arbitration:

Talking about the impact the entry of foreign firms in India  will have on arbitration, Bhasin said that we need arbitration institutions of good quality and support should be given by the government as well.

He said-

“Because of the use of technology, there are foreign lawyers who are already participating in Arbitration proceedings, right? We should have good arbitral institutions. The Government has now set up an International Arbitration council under Justice Hemant Gupta of the Supreme Court. That is the right step. But then, the Government should be detached in the form because it is the litigant. But at the same time, be very supportive as in singapore.”

The BCI has recently allowed the foreign firms to enter India and this has since become a topic of a lot of discussion and debate. While the fundamental response has been on the accepting side, there are several inconsistencies that have been pointed out. 

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